Furry friends bring fun to Homecoming parade

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Monica Kast

A group of four-legged participants in the Homecoming parade will return this year, with the Big Red Barking Band again walking in the Homecoming parade.

The Big Red Barking Band is made up of faculty and staff who walk in the Homecoming parade each year with their dogs. The group was put together several years ago by Peter Hamburger, a former professor in the department of computer science.

Now the group is organized each year by Gail Kirby, associate professor in the School of Teacher Education. Kirby, who said she has participated in Big Red Barking Band for four years, estimated there would be around 20 participants this year walking with their dogs.

“It’s basically an opportunity for faculty and staff across campus to get together under a common love of dogs and participate in a unique way in the Homecoming parade,” Kirby said.

Kirby said the dogs who participate in the parade would be dressed in WKU gear, and she’s noticed the group “is gaining popularity.” Kirby will walk in the parade with her two dogs, Olive and Sissy.

“We try to make it as fun as possible, not only for the dogs, but we meet new people and every year it grows,” Kirby said.

Last year, the group won the Non-Float Spirit Award, and Kirby said they hope to win again.

“There’s a little competition for us to try to do that again,” Kirby said.

Jenny Lee Castaldo, senior purchasing associate at WKU, will also be walking with her dog, Ellie. Castaldo said she’s “an animal lover, and I like finding things I can do with my dog.”

Castaldo said she and Ellie have walked with the Big Red Marching Band for the past five years and said she enjoys being able to participate in the Homecoming activities and parade in a uniquely.

“I’m not a sports person,” Castaldo said. “It just makes it a little more of a Western community, and makes it more personal for us.”

Castaldo said her favorite part of being in the group, however, is seeing “the kid’s faces” when they see the group of dogs walking in the parade together. Castaldo said more than candy, kids watching the parade are excited to see the dogs.

“Their faces just light up,” Castaldo said.

News editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.